What’s new under the sun? It’s something that’s new under the Texas sun, and by producer Dallas Sonnier. Not the Hollywood sun and its usual suspects. New movies are being made these days by producer Dallas Sonnier of Cinestate (backed by an anonymous Texas oil heiress) that vet the topic and the talent by what Sonnier calls his “Louisiana cousins test.” The “cousins” are school teachers,
HVAC installers, construction workers – in other worlds, a slice of America. Focus groups of people are used to determine if a potential movie has “real appeal” with Middle America. Recent movies that Sonnier has produced have passed the “cousins” test – these include “Brawl in Cellblock 99.” A recent WSJ article described Sonnier as fleeing Los Angeles in 2015 and returning to Texas in order to cast himself as the producer willing to make movies that producers in Hollywood would consider radioactive. Thus, he has produced “Brawl” and a Mel Gibson movie, “Dragged Across Concrete,” as well as a number of other dramas that aim at finding the audience “not based on the coasts.” He describes his process as combining ideology with opportunism, and explains, “The political climate brings a spotlight to these kinds of movies.” And, they appear to be well-embraced by Americans that Hollywood has chosen to ignore.